This is Part 1 of our multi-part “Divorce in Washington State” series.
Every divorce is different, but state law plays a large role in how, when, and where you can end your marriage. In Washington State, divorce is legally referred to as “dissolution of marriage.”
Getting a divorce under any circumstances can be a complex and challenging process. By learning more about what to expect, you can better understand your options and gain some peace of mind.
Ending Your Marriage in Washington State
A divorce will legally end your marriage. In addition to terminating your marriage, the family law court also has the ability to divide your assets and debts, change a spouse’s name, award child and spousal support, and enter a parenting plan and approve a custody agreement.
Washington is a “no-fault divorce” state, meaning one spouse does not have to prove misconduct (infidelity, dishonesty, or abuse) to get a divorce. The only thing you need to state is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
In some cases, spousal misconduct can be a relevant issue when it comes to minor children. The Washington courts may consider things like child neglect, substance abuse, or domestic violence when deciding issues related to a parenting plan.
Who Can Get Divorced in Washington State?
You can file for divorce in Washington if you meet any of the following criteria:
- You currently live in Washington;
- Your spouse lives in Washington;
- You are a member of the armed forces stationed in Washington; or
- Your spouse is a member of the armed forces stationed in Washington and will continue to be stationed there for at least 90 days after you file for divorce.
You should file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse currently reside. (There are exceptions.)
Do You Need Temporary Orders?
If you are unhappy with your current situation and/or feel that the safety of you or your children are in jeopardy, you can ask the court to enter temporary orders. Examples are a temporary parenting plan that outlines custody and visitation, a restraining order for a threatening, harassing, or abusive spouse, or an order prohibiting a spouse from selling assets before a divorce hearing.
These temporary orders will remain in place until the end of your case or a trial date. Your family law attorney can explain your options and help you get a request submitted to the courts quickly.
How a Washington Divorce Works
A divorce in Washington can take place in one of two ways – when one spouse files as a sole petitioner or when both spouses file together as joint petitioners.
- Sole Petitioner – One or the other spouse can file for divorce without the consent or knowledge of the other. This begins a process where the other spouse is “served” with divorce papers, has a chance to respond, and can contest the relief sought in the petition.
- Joint Petitioners (Uncontested Divorce) – When both spouses agree on matters with respect to assets, support, and child custody, they can file their petition jointly. This is referred to as an uncontested divorce, but there are still risks in pursuing this approach without consulting an attorney.
This was an introduction of the divorce process in Washington State.